The University of California, Irvine, this week agreed to a one-term paid medical leave for Andrew Tonkovich, a longtime lecturer of English who is recovering from brain surgery. Previously, the university twice denied Tonkovich’s request for paid leave, citing the fact that he is on a 75 percent appointment, teaching six courses per year instead of eight. Irvine said Tonkovich’s union contract stipulated that paid medical leaves are only for lecturers on 100 percent appointments. But he and the union argued that the university retained the ability to make exceptions. Tonkovich’s supporters said that the situation exemplified the precarity of even those part-time instructors who have relatively good working conditions.
In a note to Tonkovich this week, Diane K. O’Dowd, vice provost for academic personnel at Irvine, said that “based on clear policies and consistent practice governed by the union contract, your leave request would normally be without pay.” However, she said, “We also understand the difficulty of this situation and our administration is eager to help in the best way we can.” Tonkovich and his union said the university also dropped the demand that he pay back his salary from the summer if he would not be teaching this term. He expects to return to work in January.